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Continental Resources ventures into carbon capture with 5-state ethanol project

Oil developer Continental Resources says it can lend its expertise on the geology of North Dakota, where greenhouse gases from 31 ethanol plants will be stored underground. Summit Carbon Solutions is behind the $4.5 billion project.

Harold Hamm, left, Bill Berry, center, and Gary Tharaldson, right.
Harold Hamm, left, founder of Continental Resources, and Bill Berry, center, the current CEO of Continental Resources, speak with Gary Tharaldson, right at Tharaldson Ethanol in Casselton, North Dakota, on Wednesday, March 2. Continental Resources is investing in a carbon capture pipeline project involving Tharaldson Ethanol and 30 other ethanol plans.
Jeff Beach / Agweek
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CASSELTON, N.D. — Continental Resources, which helped drive a resurgence in North Dakota’s oil industry, is investing in what is being billed as the largest carbon capture project in the world — taking greenhouse gas emissions from ethanol plants and storing it underground in North Dakota.

Iowa-based Summit Carbon Solutions on Wednesday, March 2, announced a $250 million investment from Continental Resources, which also will contribute it's expertise in North Dakota's geology.

In an interview, Harold Hamm, the founder of Continental Resources said the storage area in Mercer and Oliver counties west of Bismarck, is an "ideal place" for carbon storage, a key component of North Dakota's goal to be carbon neutral by 2030.

"We believe that this is the right thing to do for the right reasons, for the environment, for ag, for industry, for the country, and that's why we're here," Hamm said.

It will be the first carbon storage project for Continental and it being in North Dakota helped sell Hamm on the deal.

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"This is the state that makes this stuff happen," Hamm told the crowd that gathered at Tharaldson Ethanol at Casselton for an announcement on the investment.

Tharaldson Ethanol is one of 31 ethanol producers in five states to sign on to the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline. The $4.5 billion project called the Midwest Carbon Express would benefit ethanol plants by allowing them to sell fuel on the low-carbon market for a premium price.

Gary Tharaldson, the owner of Tharaldson Ethanol, said the buy-in of Hamm and Continental Resources, "is going to make this better for us than we had already expected."

Bruce Rastetter speaks at a podium
Bruce Rastetter, the CEO of Summit Agricultural Group, the parent company of Summit Carbon Solutions, speaks in Casselton, North Dakota, on Wednesday, March 2, about plans for a carbon capture pipeline running from Iowa to North Dakota.
Jeff Beach / Agweek

Bruce Rastetter, CEO of Summit Agricultural Group, the parent company of Summit Carbon Solutions said the project will lower the carbon score for the ethanol plants by half.

"I'm really excited about the opportunity we have at Summit Carbon Solutions to team up with Continental ... to help to put their shoulder and their expertise and their knowledge behind creating what will be a world class project," Rastetter told the crowd.

Summit says it isn’t asking for any of the ethanol plants to help pay for the pipeline project, instead, it would take a percentage of the premium price that ethanol plants would get in the low-carbon markets, such as California.

Summit also is banking on a federal tax credit of $50 for every ton of carbon dioxide that is permanently stored. Summit says the 31 ethanol plants will provide about 8 millions tons of carbon dioxide and the project will have the capacity to store 12 millions tons with a possible expansion of up to 20 million tons.

The main trunk of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline would run from Iowa, through eastern South Dakota and end west of Bismarck, North Dakota. There also would be feeder lines from ethanol plants in Minnesota and Nebraska.

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A map of the Summit Carbon Solutions pipeline project

One of those feeder lines would run from an ethanol plant in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, west to join a line running south from Casselton.

Summit’s project is being met with some landowner resistance, especially in Iowa, where the Iowa Utilities Board has been flooded with comments after Summit filed for a pipeline permit earlier this year.

It also has filed for a permit in South Dakota, where public meetings are coming up.

Summit has yet to file for permits in North Dakota, but North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said one of the advantages to storing carbon in the state is that it was the first in the nation to be able to issue a permit for carbon storage rather than going through the EPA.

Burgum called North Dakota a state that "prioritizes innovation, not regulation."

Summit also has signed on a yet to be built fertilizer plant at Grand Forks.

In addition to being a market for ethanol corn, "farmers need low carbon fertilizer and fuel," Burgum said.

Summit would like to start construction in 2023 and have the pipeline operating in 2024.

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While liquid carbon dioxide can be used for enhanced oil recovery, Summit has said that is not in its business plan .

Related Topics: CARBON CAPTURE
Reach Jeff Beach at jbeach@agweek.com or call 701-451-5651 (work) or 859-420-1177.
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Summit Carbon Solution's $4.5 billion plan is to connect to 32 ethanol plants in five states: Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota, sending liquid carbon dioxide from the plants to be stored underground in North Dakota. Summit says the pipeline project will help ethanol plants lower their carbon score by capturing greenhouse gas emissions and piping the CO2 to western North Dakota for underground storage.